I was never a fan of parallel parking. I actually failed my first driver’s test because I hit the curb while trying to parallel park. Don’t ask me what I hit on the second try. That’s a story for another day.
Of course, the day my then fiancé and I were going to the county clerk’s office for our marriage license the only parking space available required me to – you guessed it – parallel park…up on a hill…with the front of the car sloping downwards.
We were just days away from walking down the aisle. I had wanted a simple, intimate affair. He wanted a more traditional wedding with all the Bajan trimmings. And since he was coming from his homeland to marry me in mine, I compromised. So with a guest list of around 150 people confirmed, the church decorated, and the hotel reception finalized, the only detail left to attend to was the marriage license. At least, that’s what I thought.
I stopped next to the car in front of the available space, put my car in reverse and carefully proceeded to park. You’ll be happy to know that I negotiated the space without incident, but I suppose that’s what happens with experience – you learn to navigate the challenges.
With the car in park, the emergency brake applied, and the ignition turned off, I glanced at my soon to be husband, took a deep breath, and got out of the car. Up to this point, I had been going through the preparations of this wedding pretty much on my own and, quite honestly, necessarily numb.
Numb to the naysayers that said this marriage of two cultures and races wouldn’t work.
Numb to the realities that would inevitably come as a result of blending the two.
Numb to my own battle that was waging war within.
Looking downhill to the door of that county clerk’s office, I became acutely aware of the inertia of the moment. Anxiety reared its ugly head and I couldn’t move. My hand in his, I sat down on the curb and just wept.
Was I really going to do this?
Was I really going to say “I do” to moving from all that was safe and comfortable in my home to join him in everything that was unknown to me in his?
Was I really going to say “I do” to leaving the nearness of my family and friends in exchange for walking the lonely road of ministry in a foreign land – a road, mind you, I’d never been trained for?
Was I really going to say “I do” to giving up the security of my secular job to live in the humble vulnerabilities of raising support?
There were more questions than answers on the curb that day. More tears than smiles. More fear than faith.
I heard his feet shuffling near me and I looked up at him, soberly uttering what my tears were already conveying: “I don’t know if I can do this.”
And that’s just it – I, in my own strength, couldn’t.
In my own strength, I might have just stayed on that curb because the cost was too great, the hurt was too deep, and I was too emptied.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “God gives us His gifts where He finds the vessel empty enough to receive them.”
Though I didn’t realize it then, that moment of emptiness on the curb was a gift. It was the place that I needed to be before saying “I do”. It is the place that I need to continually revisit, even after nearly 20 years of marriage.
And that place is in the redemptive shadow of the cross.
Because it’s there that grace abounds, each to the other.
It’s in the redemptive shadow of the cross that mercy is freely given, even when undeserved.
It’s in the redemptive shadow of the cross where compassion breeds forgiveness.
It’s in the redemptive shadow of the cross where love never fails.
See, the day that Jesus hung on the cross to redeem His bride, the cost was great, the hurt was deep, and the Savior of the world was poured out. There was no greater love than this and in Ephesians 5:32, Paul calls it a “mystery” – this two becoming one, referring to Christ and the church.
Not to be left out, God invites us into this mystery through His gift of marriage – an institution that He created to reflect such sacrifice, such submission, such love. Our marriage is not only to honor and cherish one another, but it is ultimately to glorify Him. As my husband rightly says:
“Each for the other. Both for the Lord.”
I’ve had many a day since then where I’ve sat on the proverbial curb emptied and weeping. And as he always does, my husband helps me up. And as He always does, God gives sufficient grace.
Let this be our prayer – that our marriage always remains in the redemptive shadow of the cross.
In what way can remaining in the redemptive shadow of the cross transform your marriage?